Arbitration Clause and Nursing Home Contracts – Pivotal Case Issue

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Next month, a Massachusetts Court is slated to hear a case involving the issue of arbitration agreements many nursing home residents are required to sign in order to be admitted.  The tragic circumstances which have led to the case are extraordinary – a  100-year-old suffocated by her 97-year-old roommate.  However, because the family of the resident who died had signed an arbitration agreement upon her admission, they were forced to go to arbitration instead of going to the courts in their attempt to hold the nursing home responsible for its negligence in placing a resident known to have a history of serious problems with an unsuspecting and defenseless resident.

While challenges to arbitration agreements have largely been unsuccessful, the attorneys for the victim in this case have argued a technical issue – that the victim’s son, while designated as her health care proxy, did not have authority to bind his mother to arbitration since he did not have her power of attorney.  Without the legal authority of a power of attorney, he could not agree to arbitration on his mother’s behalf, meaning the arbitration clause is void and a claim of negligence against the nursing home should proceed in a court of law.

This approach may finally provide many residents and their families a legal strategy to overcome the requirements of the arbitration clause and afford them an avenue to seek damages against a nursing home for its negligence.

For more information on the details of the case, please see “A Nursing Home Murder and a Family’s Arbitration Fight”, New York Times, 2/22/2016.

We also invite you to read our previous post for general information about the issue of arbitration clauses being included in nursing home agreements, and action you can take to change this standard practice.


Rosen & Spears, Attorneys at Law, focuses on issues of medical malpractice, nursing home neglect or abuse, and other types of claims that seek to protect consumers and seniors.

For more information or free case consultation, please contact us.

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About the Author: Marian Rosen